In a scientific and practical way, this makes perfect sense for a restaurant review. The Professional, able to test the entire offerings of the kitchen, has the ability to get a feel for consistency, sophistication, skill, and diversity of each dish. They can evaluate nearly the entire menu. They can get a feel for the floor. They can better evaluate the service: Is it always fast? Is it efficient? Do they take care of their tables? Is the sommelier knowledgeable about the food and what wines to pair it with? What is the overall atmosphere?
Many Professionals argue they their review signifies parity with the everyday diner, however the only way to achieve true parity is to pay for the meal with their own money. By having a company cover expenses for them and their dining companions for multiple trips, they lose touch with that economic influence that gives a critique substance. While core questions for a diner are if a meal is well prepared or if the cuisine is one that will be enjoyed, another one of possibly greatest importance is is the meal worth it?
The Amateur reviewer can achieve parity with the reader on this crucial level. They attend a restaurant only once, maybe twice, or however many times they can reasonably afford based on their own financial situation. They carefully analyze the meal in relation to it's dollar amount. This key aspect is taken into great care for the diligent amateur reviewer.
For the most part, the average diner only goes out for special occasions and usually chooses a favorite restaurant, warily deviating from selections that may disappoint. Thus the reviews for the average diner are important. As a guide it has to be accurate and describe the everyday experience.
The Amateur describes this everyday experience. They go in for a regular meal and they can describe their experience. The drawback of course, is the one time experience. The kitchen may have had an off night, the head chef out sick, the oven was sketchy. Still, no one wants to go out for a special occasion and have a terrible experience.
The negative to the Amateur is that there is no reliability or editor governing their writing or verifying their qualifications. They must be accepted as-is. Furthermore, the Amateur may lack the knowledge or connections the Professional may possess from being in the industry needed to write up a detailed and complete review.
Of course, the Professional probably has a good background or education in writing and food, otherwise they would not have been hired in the first place. The Professional also is sure to meticulously take into account the atmosphere, wine, background of the restaurant, history of the head chef, locality of the ingredients, and knowledge of the cuisines and preparations. Still, if the Amateur is able to match the Professional on every one of these markers, then what give the Professional more standing aside from a public title? If placed on equal footing, then trust should be placed into the amateur for their economic dining parity to the everydiner.
It's an odd and fine line. There are good arguments for the reviews of the Professional and the amateur. The Professional offers a diverse, complete review that is outside parity with the reader. The Amateur has a sense of equivalence and relatibility with the reader. So, which one should be trusted?
In the end, I find that the best way to study for a restaurant (am I the only one that does it?) is to read up as much as you can about the chefs and the owners and read over any press. I try to study ahead for my reviews, I do my research, and I bring other mouths other than my own. I may not have been formally trained as a chef, but I study, research, and learn a lot on my own. I go out of my way to make sure that I am fully informed.
Still, in the end, one has to put faith and trust in the reviewer. Furthermore, their wholly unbiased sense of taste can be questionable. Myself, I hate raw tomatoes, still, if presented one in a dish, I'll eat it and attempt to describe it for those who do and attempt to keep my own prejudice on it excluded.
The reader, therefore is his or her own reviewer. The reader does so whenever they become a diner, they analyze and critique their experience, and put it out in a public forum through discussions with friends, family, or coworkers and so on. We trust these people for the most part and in turn give our trust, for the most part, to the Amateur.
The reader/diner is supposedly, in the end the only real reviewer that they can assuredly trust in all matters of taste. But then again, that would lead us to another post on why review restaurants at all...
Have your own ideas and opinions on the topic? Would love to hear them in the comments section (no judgment).